How the federal agents caught bombing suspect Cesar Sayoc: A single fingerprint, DNA match

WASHINGTON  Christopher Wray is that rare kind of government figure not easily driven to hyperbole.

Yet Friday’s swift resolution of a serial bombing campaign had even the plain spoken FBI director invoking Hollywood and taut television drama as he explained how federal authorities identified and captured a 56-year-old Florida man as its lone suspect in a series of partisan attacks that transfixed the nation for most of the week.

The fortunate break investigators were searching for, Wray said, arrived sometime Wednesday at the FBI Laboratory in Quantico, Va., with the first two of the 13 un-exploded devices to be delivered for analysis.

In short order, the devices — one addressed to President Barack Obama and the other to Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., — were turned over to bomb technicians and analysts who made a crucial discovery. On the padded manila envelope containing the device destined for Waters was a fingerprint.

By Thursday, investigators had matched the single print to a man with a lengthy criminal record in Florida, Cesar Sayoc. The link was enough to instill confidence that a resolution was near, but there was more.

Further examination of both the Waters and Obama devices revealed DNA among the components of the pipe-bombs, crudely constructed of six-inch PVC cylinders, small timers, batteries, wiring and “energetic material.”

Late Thursday night, Wray said, federal investigators called on colleagues from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to compare the recovered DNA with existing samples taken from Sayoc in previous criminal cases.

Another match.

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